By Rachel Gobep
A scarlet oak tree, which is the only tree of its kind on Youngstown State University’s campus, was planted in honor of Ray Beiersdorfer, professor of geological and environmental sciences, who died on Oct. 11.
An abundance of YSU students, faculty and staff gathered in the lawn between Moser and Ward Beecher Halls for the tree planting ceremony and packed the sidewalks on the cold fall Friday.
Susie Beiersdorfer, Ray Beiersdorfer’s wife, along with his two sisters, Debbie Sherlock and Lynn Livi, began the planting ceremony by picking up shovels. Others in the YSU community were then encouraged to do the same.
Those who attended the ceremony were also encouraged to bring rocks to surround the scarlet oak as a tribute to Ray Beiersdorfer because of his love for geology.
“I think in Dr. Ray’s case, as an activist for our natural environment and our oceans, the tree was certainly the most fitting memorial for him,” Catherine Cala, assistant director of alumni engagement and chairwoman of the Campus Beautification Initiative committee at YSU, said.
Susie Beiersdorfer said the scarlet oak is brilliant in the fall and is one of her favorite trees.
“[The tree is] one of a kind, just like Dr. Ray,” Cala said.
She said the university has had tree dedication ceremonies in the past, but the ceremony for Ray Beiersdorfer was the most highly attended, which shows how many people his presence affected.
“It just shows the expansiveness of Ray’s presence in so many lives,” Susie Beiersdorfer said.
Sherlock said it was an honor to see that so many people appreciated her brother’s hard work in the community, and as a middle child, Ray Beiersdorfer lived by his own rules. She it is nice to see that others respected that.
“It’s a testimony to him and his greatness,” she said.
Sherlock said she and Livi were “blown away” by the response to their brother’s death by those in the Youngstown community.
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, a professor in the department of philosophy and religious studies, said he believes Ray Beiersdorfer was instrumental to YSU because he paid attention to climate change and taught the campus community about it.
“We are not doing a responsible job of educating [students], unless we also educate [students] on the threat that climate change poses for their future. Ray did that,” he said.
“We never know how long we have on this earth. Do something that makes a difference,” Felicia Armstrong, associate professor of geological and environmental sciences, said regarding the fact that she believes Ray Beiersdorfer made a difference at YSU and to the community.
This sentiment is reinforced by the living memorial that is now on YSU’s campus, showing that he impacted those whom he encountered on campus and in the community, according to Cala.
The Campus Beautification Initiative at YSU was established in 2009 to support maintenance and care of the campus with an emphasis on trees. Donors can have a tree planted or a bench erected on campus through the initiative to memorialize a loved one or mark a milestone.
The donors are encouraged to select tree species not yet on campus to diversify the tree population.
YSU currently has a tree population of almost 2,000, and has received recognition as a Tree Campus USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the past nine years.
Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.
For those interested in planting a donor tree or erecting a bench on campus in memoriam of a loved one or a milestone that has been met, contact Catherine Cala at (330) 941-2755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.